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Sunshine Girls selection squabble - Top players left out of squad after snubbing new NJ trials

Published:Sunday | October 20, 2019 | 12:00 AMRobert Bailey - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Sunshine Girls shooter Jhaniele Fowler (right) talks to teammates during a match against England at the National Indoor Sports Centre on October 13, 2018.

Only one member of Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls team that participated at this year’s Netball World Cup (NWC) in Liverpool, England, has been selected to the country’s training squad for their upcoming Quad Series, which also takes place in England in January.

With the exemption of goal shooter Romelda Aiken, who is now injured, and defender Vangelee Williams, who is taking a one-year break from the sport, the vast majority of the Sunshine Girls team to the 2019 NWC has been excluded from the training squad after failing to show up for mandated Netball Jamaica (NJ) trials.

Defender Kadie-Ann Dehaney is the only member of the ill-fated NWC squad who has been called up by NJ to the training squad for the upcoming high-profile series, which also involves hosts England, World Champions New Zealand, and South Africa.

The Sunday Gleaner obtained a copy of an email, which was sent to the players by NJ, referring to them as “former Sunshine Girls players” and advising that each player was expected to attend sessions on September 28 and October 5 at the Leila Robinson Courts.

NJ’s emailed read: “This is the final opportunity for all former Sunshine Girls to make squad. With the exception of the players who are currently off the island, you are all required to attend this final trainingsession.”

However, with all the senior players reportedly skipping the trials in protest, NJ has swung the axe, leaving the likes of world class top shooter Jhaniele Fowler, Adean Thomas, Shanice Beckford, Khadijah Williams, Staciann Facey, Nicole Dixon and in demand wing player Jodi-Ann Ward out in the cold.

Efforts to get a comment from president of NJ Dr Paula Daley-Morris and her first vice president Trecia Robinson to explain the rationale behind the new approach proved futile with several calls to their mobile phones going unanswered.

The Sunshine Girls actually had a miserable NWC campaign in Liverpool, failing to make the semi-finals for the first time since 1995 and it is felt that this latest move to stage trials to select the squad going forward is a direct reaction to this.

However, stand out defender Shamera Sterling, who is among the players who have been left out of the training squad, told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday, that despite receiving the email, she did not see the need to attend trials.

“It is what it is now and so now I can focus on school. I can also go home (Montego Bay) for my Christmas and not have to worry about training in Kingston,” said Sterling, who plies her trade in Australia’s Suncorp League with the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

“I am eager to play for the Sunshine Girls because I have been playing professionally and I am now in my prime, but if they (Netball Jamaica) don’t want to invite me back to the squad, then I will just continue playing professionally in Australia,” Sterling added.

The 23-year-old Sterling, who is rated as one of the best defenders in the world, noted that she was looking forward to working with recently re-appointed head coach Connie Francis, but feels the matter is now out of her hands.

“I would love for Connie (Francis) to coach me, but if Netball Jamaica says no then it is what it is,” Sterling said.